Reva Sipser was a retired schoolteacher who couldn’t put down the lesson planner.
When she fell ill last week, the telephone rang with inquiries from friends and family – and the octogenarian and nonagenarian students enrolled in the memoir-writing class Reva taught at St. John’s Meadows.
Reva died December 23, 2022, at the hospice at Webster Comfort Care Home. She was 95.
Reva Marian Shimberg was born on July 24, 1927, in Rochester, the third child to immigrants from Bessarabia, now the Moldavian Republic, and Neustadt, Suwalki, Russia. Her father, Joseph, owned a sundries store on North Street and later was a tailor at Bond Clothes; her mother, Sarah (Freeman) was a housewife and was challenged with low vision.
Reva attended Andrews School No. 9 at Joseph Avenue and Baden Street and Benjamin Franklin High School, graduating in 1944. As a young teen, Reva worked at a Joseph Avenue bakery and, during a World War II blackout drill to thwart air raids, she ate a cheesecake in the darkened bakery, outside the watchful gaze of her manager.
At age 14, Reva enjoyed a Shirley Temple mocktail at a Rochester nightclub when her brother Ben, nine years her senior, was on leave during World War II. Brother Len asked Reva to care for his canoe, docked at Genesee Valley Park, during the war. Paddling on the Genesee River led to a lifelong love of the water.
Among Reva’s jobs as a young adult in Rochester were summer stints on the assembly line at Kodak Camera Works and a book bindery.
After high school, Reva attended McKechnie-Lunger School of Commerce and worked as a secretary at Key Drug and Neisner Brothers. Married in 1948 to Harold Armon of Rochester, Reva graduated from Brockport State Teachers College in 1951 and moved to New York City while her husband earned his master’s degree at New York University. The couple lived in the Bronx and in GI housing on North Brother Island in the East River. Her first two daughters, Shelley and Shifra, were born in New York City.
Returning to Rochester, Reva gave birth to Ann, David and Myra while working as a teacher at Hillel School and then for the Rochester City School District, first at 14 School and then at an experimental prekindergarten program that coincided with the advent of Head Start. Operating out of 26 School on Bernard Street, and then 33 and 11 Schools on Webster Avenue, Reva taught 3- and 4-year-old children for nearly 20 years.
While she was in her 50s and working full time, Reva earned a master’s degree plus 60 hours from Nazareth College. She was just one dissertation shy of a Ph.D.
Growing up in an inner-city neighborhood marred by racial strife and a violent riot in 1964, Reva felt that her classroom work helped break the cycle of poverty for her students.
After Reva retired, she moved to Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida, with her second husband, Kenneth Sipser, and joined a Yiddish book group to rekindle her love of the language spoken on Joseph Avenue. She enjoyed international travel and was 87 when she took her granddaughter, Cassie, to Iceland as a high school graduation present.
In 2013, Reva joined the senior living community at St. John’s Meadows in Brighton. Her myriad volunteer pursuits included delivering “meals on heels” to neighbors unable to leave their apartments. More recently, Reva reconnected with her teaching roots as co-leader of a book discussion group and leader of a memoir writing class that conjured up memories through quirky prompts like remembering a favorite meal.
A love of opera also kept Reva steeped in culture in recent years. Along with her companion Don Bogdanski, Reva has trekked to the Met Opera at Lincoln Center, Glimmerglass in Cooperstown and dozens of on-screen operas at Rochester movie theaters. She and Don were looking forward to seeing Rochester’s Renee Fleming in the new Met production,“The Hours.”
Predeceased by her parents, Joseph and Sarah [Freeman] Shimberg; and her brothers, Leonard Shimberg & Benjamin Shimberg. Survived by her children, Shelley (Robert) Wine, Shifra (William Little) Armon, Ann (Len Huber) Armon, David (Maureen Fitzpatrick) Armon and Myra (Robert) Keeble; grandchildren, Michael Wine, Emily Wine, Mary Catherine Armon and Elizabeth Ann Armon; great-granddaughter, Cecilia Wine; and companion Donald Bogdanski.
Graveside Services will be held on TUESDAY December 27, 2022 at 2 PM in Stone Road Cemetery (68 Stonewood Avenue in Rochester). CLICK HERE for a map to the cemetery.
A Memorial Service will be held on WEDNESDAY December 28, 2022 at 1 PM in the Briarwood Multipurpose Room of Saint John’s Meadows(1 Johnsarbor Drive West in Brighton). CLICK HERE for a map the Memorial Service.
Donations in Reva’s memory may be made to Webster Comfort Care Home. CLICK HERE to donate online.